Match Preview: Pakistan v South Africa, World Cup 2015, Group B, Auckland
Safe South Africa. Precariously placed Pakistan. It could not be a better prospect. With one of the tournament favorites already looking to the knockouts and the other desperate to get there, Eden Park could see a clash of a strategies which could make for a sensational contest.
South Africa are trying to stack up strong showings and coming off the back of two totals of 400-plus, they may be aiming for 450. But they will be up against the most challenging attack they will face in the group stages, a Pakistan line-up laden with left-armers and laced with aggression. They will want to be careful but no too hesitant, especially if they are chasing.
It was just three matches ago that South Africa’s unbeaten World Cup record against India was broken by a fragile batting line-up. They have the same advantage over Pakistan, and will want to guard against it being overturned, especially as it could have an impact on where they finish in the group.
Pakistan have their own problems with the bat, which they need to fix especially when coming up against quality bowling. Their top order remains brittle and they continue to rely overly on Misbah-ul-Haq and their bowlers to smooth over any shortcomings. They will know only a complete performance against an outfit like South Africa will do.
While this match is not quite make or break for Pakistan, they would prefer things not to get to that stage – they wouldn’t want to face another tricky game against Ireland in the group stages of a World Cup. They would much prefer to make a statement against South Africa and clear their own path to the knockouts.
Pakistan WWLLL (last five completed matches, most recent first)
South Africa WWLWW
In the Spotlight
Quinton de Kock scored his first international century against Pakistan in November 2013, and he may look to that for inspiration to end his lean patch. He has only got into double figures once in his last five ODIs and has been struggling with footwork and shot selection, but has been tipped by everyone from his coach Russell Domingo to his opening partner Hashim Amla to come good. As the only member of South Africa’s top six yet to score a century in this competition, de Kock is due.
The man who has delivered the fastest ball in the tournament so far is not Mitchell Johnson or Dale Steyn but Wahab Riaz, who sent one down at 154kph against the UAE and has reminded batsmen not everything can go their way. In operation with Mohammad Irfan, Rahat Ali and Sohail Khan, he is part of an attack that can rival South Africa’s in almost every way. Riaz and Co will relish the opportunity to go toe to toe with the opposition pack, and will be keen to see if anyone can stop AB de Villiers.
Both JP Duminy and Vernon Philander have passed fitness tests and are available for selection, which leaves South Africa with a conundrum. Duminy should slot straight back in leaving space for only one of Farhaan Behardien or Rilee Rossouw, but Philander will face competition for his place from the in-form Kyle Abbott.
South Africa (probable) 1 Hashim Amla, 2 Quinton de Kock (wk), 3 Faf du Plessis, 4 AB de Villiers (capt), 5 David Miller, 6 JP Duminy, 7 Farhaan Behardien/Rilee Rossouw, 8 Vernon Philander/Kyle Abbott, 9 Dale Steyn, 10 Morne Morkel, 11 Imran Tahir
Pakistan have indicated they will have a relook at their top order with Sarfraz Ahmed being considered as an opener, probably in place of the under-firing Nasir Jamshed. They may also have to make a change at No. 3 because Haris Sohail is nursing a heel injury and will need to be assessed to determine his availability, which could bring Younis Khan back into the XI. Yasir Shah will likely remain on the bench with the four-pronged pace attack complemented by Shahid Afridi.
Pakistan (probable) 1 Nasir Jamshed/Sarfraz Ahmed (wk), 2 Ahmed Shehzad, 3 Haris Sohail/Younis Khan 4 Sohaib Maqsood, 5 Misbah-ul-Haq (capt), 6 Umar Akmal, 7 Shahid Afridi, 8 Wahab Riaz, 9 Sohail Khan, 10 Rahat Ali, 11 Mohammad Irfan
Pitch and Conditions
With short straight boundaries and a pristine outfield, Eden Park promises bucket loads of runs but looks may be deceiving. In the only match of the World Cup played here so far, 100 fewer runs were scored than South Africa managed to score in a single innings in Canberra.
Heavy moisture in the air will aid bowlers but may threaten the match. Wet weather is forecast for tomorrow afternoon with the heaviest rain expected to fall between 6pm and 8pm.
Stats and Trivia
South Africa and Pakistan have played each other three times at a World Cup, in 1992, 1996 and 1999, and South Africa have won all three matches
Misbah-ul-Haq is 7 runs away from 5,000 ODI runs, while Shahid Afridi is five wickets away from 400 scalps
“I feel like we are playing some good cricket. We’re starting to figure out a way. We’re putting this puzzle together and everything is coming together quite nicely.” ~ Dale Steyn
“Everybody is determined. We all know that this is an important game if we really want to progress in this World Cup. We’re really focused, determined, and looking forward to this game.” ~ Misbah-ul-Haq
Courtesy: ESPN CRICINFO